Page 35 - Dutch Asiatic Shipping Volume 1
P. 35

The VOC was merchant, shipper, shipbuilder, and in Asia, government and military force. It is not always easy to extract these different aspects from the total picture of Company business and to describe them separately. Organizationally and administratively the activities merged with one another and demands made by one activity determined the character and scope of another. The differentiation between them is most distinct where at home the various tasks were executed - shipbuilding and repair in the shipyards, dispatch and reception of the fleets.
This chapter deals exclusively with the shipbuilding and shipping business in the Repu- blic, three important aspects of which are being dealt with elsewhere: regulations concer- ning the types and rates of the ships are treated in the next chapter; the involvement of the directors with the instructions on routes and courses is discussed in the chapters on the seaway to and from Asia; the engagement of crews for the outward bound ships is dealt with in chapter 9.
Management and decision making
The processes of decision making in the meetings of the Heren Zeventien were attuned to the rhythms of the shipping trade. Early in the summer the preliminary decision was taken on the numbers of ships to be dispatched, and in the autumn the definitive equipage for the coming season was resolved on, a season running from September to the following summer. Fixing the equipage therefore appeared twice on the agenda of the Heren Zeven- tien s meetings, and in the chambers the directors were able to deliberate beforehand about the instructions they wished to give their delegates on this point. It is clear from the resolution books of Amsterdam and Zeeland that the directors did indeed go about it in this way. No doubt the directors of the smaller chambers will also have discussed this vital matter, if only to make sure that they would not lose out on their share of the equipage.1
The Amsterdam chamber used to go more fully into the agenda items for the meetings of the Zeventien than Zeeland did, as happened in this case. As a rule the Amsterdam directors would instruct the members of the department of the equipage to formulate a proposal on the number of ships and men to be sent out. This proposal, comprising the Company's total equipage, including the ships of the other chambers, was then discussed and if approved was passed on to the delegates to the Heren Zeventien's meeting.
These meetings always started with the allocation of the various items on the agenda to sub-committees. A resolution was then prepared en petit comité - not all that small though: four Amsterdam directors, two from Zeeland, one from each of the other four chambers, two sworn principal shareholders and the advocaat - and subsequently tabled before the complete meeting. Its preparation was soon completed since the ad hoc com- mittee always included a few members from Amsterdam who had already been involved in composing the draft at home, and moreover these Amsterdam members had a list of ships ready. In most cases this Amsterdam proposal was accepted without amendment. In case of objections Amsterdam had the advantage - whenever it was the presiding
1 The description of decision making procedures is based on the resolution books of the Amsterdam and Zeeland chambers and on the meetings of the Heren Zeventien; the resolution books of the smaller chambers have not survived.

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